Aged care providers and consumer groups have heralded the latest changes to aged care that came into force this week, saying the reforms will improve outcomes for seniors and drive quality in the sector.
But they also cautioned that proper implementation is crucial and they will be closely monitoring the sweeping changes to identify any unintended consequences.
Under the changes that came into effect on Monday, community home care package funding is now attached to the consumer, rather than being allocated to the provider, through a national prioritisation process managed by My Aged Care.
When a client changes provider or leaves the home care system their unspent budget now moves with them or is returned to the Commonwealth. Providers that fail to return unspent funds face sanctions from the department.
Previously, unspent funds, which amount to millions of dollars across the sector, were retained by providers.
Home care organisations must also now publish the maximum exit fee they will charge when a client leaves their service, although some providers are choosing not to charge a fee.
As part of the introduction of these changes My Aged Care was upgraded over the weekend to display the average percentage of packaged funds a provider will make available, so people can more easily compare average administration and case management charges.
However, as Australian Ageing Agenda reports today, work on the upgrades is continuing following data issues (read our story here).
The changes also involve a streamlining of the approved provider process, with existing residential aged care or flexible care providers now able to opt-in to deliver home care without having to submit a new application.
AAA’s sister publication Community Care Review has previously reported on increasing competition in home care as new players enter the space from residential care, retirement living operators, private home care and brokerage agencies (read that story here).
The changes have been welcomed by aged care provider peak bodies and consumer groups as a significant step toward a consumer-led aged care system, as envisaged under the Aged Care Roadmap.
Catholic Health Australia said the changes would empower consumers to choose services they consider best suit their needs, while home care providers would have an additional incentive to be recognised for offering quality and responsive services.
Council on the Ageing Australia similarly said the changes meant that seniors receiving poor or unsuitable services could more easily change provider.
“This will over time be a real boost to the quality of care provided to older Australians as this change allows good providers to thrive while poorer ones will have to lift their game or fail,” the consumer lobby said.
Leading Age Services Australia also welcomed the changes but said it would closely monitor their implementation to ensure demand for care and services is being met and that sufficient processes are in place to support providers and consumers.
Similarly, Aged and Community Services Australia said it was important to monitor the impact of the changes so that seniors are treated equitably across the country and providers can offer the services older people want and need.
Victorian provider Benetas said it was concerned that the benefits of the reforms would not be understood as research showed only a minority of potential home care clients were aware of government-funded services available.
ROAD TO REFORM: Groups back future reform but seek clarity from government
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